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Former Blackhawk of the Week: Michael Nylander

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The father of the newest Blackhawk skated for Chicago around the turn of the century.

Michael Nylander looks on

Within hours of being traded to the Blackhawks, Alexander Nylander took on the viral bottle cap challenged and shared it on Instagram, all while wearing a red Blackhawks sweater with No. 92 and Nylander’s name on it.

That sweater probably wasn’t shipped to Nylander from the Blackhawks. It likely belong to his father, Michael Nylander, who skated with the Blackhawks and a slew of other teams during a 15-year career that included 920 regular season games and 47 playoff games in the 1990s and 2000s.

Michael Nylander was a third-round pick (59th overall) by the Hartford Whalers in the 1991 NHL Draft. He debuted with the Whalers one year later, playing 59 games in the ‘92-93 season with 11 goals and 22 assists. In the next season, Nylander was traded to the Calgary Flames, kick-starting the nomadic nature of Nylander’s NHL career.

Here’s a quick summary of Nylander’s transactions, thanks to the Hockey Reference website:

  • Traded to the Flames in March 1994
  • Traded to the Lightning in January 1999
  • Traded to the Blackhawks in November 1999
  • Traded to the Capitals in November 2002
  • Traded to the Bruins in March 2004
  • Signed with the Rangers in August 2004
  • Signed with the Capitals in July 2007

In November 2009, Nylander was placed on waivers by the Capitals and spent 24 games in the AHL that season before heading to Finland. After a brief seven-game stint with the Rochester Americans in 2010-11 — the same team Alexander Nylander spent last season with — Michael Nylander returned to Europe, where he played out his career before retiring after the ‘14-15 season.

Nylander played 239 games with the Blackhawks over four seasons, his highest number of games among the seven teams that employed him. He scored 69 goals with 128 assists, including a 64-point season in ‘00-01 and a 61-point performance the following season, as the Blackhawks made a surprise run to the playoffs. Nylander’s two best seasons came with the Rangers: in ‘05-06, he had 79 points and followed that up with career-bests in goals (26), assists (57) and points (83) in ‘06-07. A torn rotator cuff cut Nylander’s next season in half, but he still managed 37 points in 40 games with the Capitals.

While in Chicago, Nylander was routinely one of the Blackhawks top offensive threats along with other names like Tony Amonte, Steve Sullivan, Eric Daze and Alex Zhamnov. A line of Daze-Nylander-Sullivan was one of Chicago’s most lethal combinations in the early 2000s, referenced in this April 2002 Chicago Tribune article. For an idea of what that line looked like in action, here’s a YouTube video from a Hawks game against the St. Louis Blues on March 24, 2002. The Hawks trailed 3-1 in the third period before storming back to win in overtime (bonus points for naming the coach behind the St. Louis bench).

Two other nuggets to share on Nylander, who is also the father of William Nylander, the star forward for the Maple Leafs:

  • Nylander was a gifted offensive player with a signature move: a quick half-spin with the puck on his backhand that he used in tight quarters to shake opposing defenders or open up a passing lane. It’s something plenty of offensive-minded skaters can do, but few could do it as quickly or as sharply as Nylander.
  • If that didn’t make him stand out, Nylander’s skates did. He was one of the few players who wore black skate holders, as depicted in the photo below:
Blackhawks v Blues X Nylander